It's hard to imagine a time when the need for continuing ed in our industry has been greater. As the supply chain world becomes more complex, many practitioners are struggling to keep their heads above water, leaving them with little time to keep up with what's happening around them. Then there's the recent influx of "techie" types who have mastered the necessary technology but know very little about the basics of supply chain management. Put them together and you have a group of managers who either lack rudimentary knowledge or are simply having a hard time staying current.
One tried and true method of getting up to speed and up to date is through professional certification programs. Today, practitioners can choose from a variety of offerings that provide supply chain-specific education, bring them up to speed on current practices, and provide outside verification that they know their stuff.
Certification is not a new idea in the industry. Various industry organizations have offered professional certifications for some time. The venerable American Society of Transportation and Logistics, or AST&L, (then known as the American Society of Traffic and Transportation) launched its first certification program—the Certified in Transportation & Logistics credential—way back in 1948. APICS (then known as the American Production and Inventory Control Society) rolled out its Certified in Production and Inventory Management program—the first of what would become a series of well-known certification programs—in 1973.
In 2015, APICS merged with the AST&L in a bid to expand its logistics education and certification portfolio to cover the entire supply chain. In July 2016, the group (now known simply as APICS) announced a new program that, according to the organization, "sets the standard for logistics education." That new program, known as the certification in logistics, transportation, and distribution (CLTD), will "equip individuals with the essential knowledge they need to reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, and achieve recognition as a logistics expert," according to APICS. Although candidates can earn the designation by passing a single exam, the program contains eight modules covering subjects from order management to reverse logistics. (APICS published 850 pages of study guides and materials, so this will not be a cakewalk by any means.)
But that's not the only game in town. In 2011, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) announced the launch of its SCPro certification. In its announcement, the organization described SCPro as "a rigorous three-level certification [that] offers supply chain professionals a concrete way to fully demonstrate a broad range of skills that command competitive salaries and titles while giving hiring managers an independent barometer of a candidate's commitment to and success within the supply chain management profession." Candidates progress through three levels, entering the next level only upon satisfactory completion of the previous one. The last level requires candidates to apply the knowledge and skills they've acquired to complete a real-world project, which should give them a definite edge in the job market.
For many of us, the first question will be, "Do I really want to do any of this?" I would say, probably so, particularly if you are new to the industry, do not have a solid supply chain background, or simply want to stand out from your peers.
The second question will no doubt be, "Which certification should I seek?" That is a tougher question, and I offer a tough answer: both. I would pursue the APICS CLTD certification first. Right now, it has better name recognition in the industry and will be excellent preparation for the SCPro. I have no doubt that the CSCMP program will increase in stature, and by the time you're ready to begin that journey, it will be much better known than it is today. This endeavor will take some time, but when the task is complete, you will have the best of both certification worlds.
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